New school year brings new changes throughout Brooklyn Center Community Schools
September 4, 2019 – As the 2019-2020 school year kicks off, Brooklyn Center Community Schools (BCCS) is excited for the fresh start and hope a new school year brings. Going into its final year of the 2020 strategic plan, BCCS has laid out four priority areas for its work.
“We have a really clear path of what needs to be done to improve the academic experience for all of our learners,” said superintendent Dr. Carly Baker. “Our district is made up of problem solvers, solution seekers and adults who love mentoring the minds of our young people.”
The four focus areas for this school year include:
- Trust through transparency
- Define and declare a commitment to racial equity
- Social emotional learning
- Moving the needle: identify methods to measure the district’s work
Commitment to Racial Equity
The most important focus area is the district’s explicit commitment to racial equity, Baker said. This work will be accomplished through several key partnerships. First, the district has started working with Innocent Classroom, an organization with a vision to rebuild teacher-student relationships in school districts. This training will be an on-going coaching experience that re-centers staff mindsets to focus on the student experience.
“When we met with other schools that had gone through this training, teachers reported they were happier, more engaged in their school community and felt more able to support their students,” said Jena Carlson, director of curriculum and instruction. “We are eager to bring this learning to our community and for the direct impact it will have on our students’ school experience.”
The second initiative to further equity work is around Culturally Linguistically Responsive Practice (CLR), from Dr. Sharroky Hollie. This will be the district’s third year providing CLR learning to staff members. This work helps to create welcoming environments that celebrate what students bring to the classroom. This year, the district will continue to provide support through a CLR Lead model. These 15 teachers model, coach and help their colleagues deepen and develop their CLR learning.
Curriculum, instructional changes
Alignment with curriculum has been a focus for several years and has been significantly refined during that time. This year, BCCS will focus on math and literacy development and supports. Elementary teachers piloted a math intervention and enrichment program during summer programs. Students that participated in three 15-minute sessions each week demonstrated significant growth and skill mastery over the course of summer programming. The platform provides personalized learning based on a diagnostic assessment. Some of these students were working beyond their grade-level expectations.
Middle school math teachers spent time this summer collaborating on the development of rigorous math units. They also identified common misconceptions students have when learning math and how to address those potential barriers to learning. Our high school math teachers spent last spring identifying appropriate textbooks to use with year four math students. The new textbooks will be introduced this fall.
Because of an adjustment made to the master schedule, Earle Brown Elementary STEAM (EBE) redesigned how they support student learning. The new time in the schedule is called What I Need (WIN). Building administration and the curriculum and instruction team will work directly with teachers to support the development and implementation of WIN time instructional practices that meet the needs of students in the areas of reading and math.
Start and end time changes
The master schedule changes were the result of a change in start and end times, which were implemented for the 2019-2020 school year. The change was necessary to best meet the needs of students and because of research that shows best practices for school day lengths and start times. EBE had a long school day for its young learners and the decision was made to slightly shorten the school day and start earlier in the morning. Previously, school started at 8:45 a.m. This fall, school starts at 7:45 a.m. and ends at 2:05 p.m.
“We are fortunate to have a strong community schools model,” said Seth Ryan, director of community engagement. “Because of this, we are able to offer free after-school programs, snacks, an evening meal and transportation home for our students. These resources have helped families navigate the early end time at our elementary school.”
Brooklyn Center Middle and High School STEAM (BCS) also changed start and end times this school year. BCS previously started school at 7:25 a.m. Research suggests teenagers should not be in school until after 8:30 a.m. so that they can get the recommended eight and a half hours or more of sleep. BCS also experienced a large amount of first-hour tardies. Because of these reasons, the new start time was moved to 8:45 a.m. The school will release at 3:20 p.m. at south campus and 3:35 p.m. at north campus.
In November 2018, voters in BCCS approved two funding requests. The first question increased the district’s operating levy by providing an additional $210 per student annually for school operations. The second question provided $29.9 million in construction funds to increase and remodel classroom spaces, improve school security, provide separate entrances and classroom areas for middle school and high school students and address deferred maintenance needs.
Construction officially started in January 2018 at BCS. Because of the scope of the projects, part of the building could not be used for classroom instruction during the remodel. While the west wing was being completed, middle school students were moved to the north wing of the building and high school students were moved offsite to a temporary campus, south campus. The main campus was temporarily renamed north campus. The west wing of the building was completed this summer and middle school staff and students moved into their new spaces for the start of the 2019-2020 school year. Work started in the north wing of the building and will be completed for the 2020-2021 school year. At that time, high school staff and students will move into those learning spaces and the lease at south campus will end.
Construction at EBE began shortly after school ended in June 2019. Rooms were remodeled and staff moved into their new spaces in time for school start. A second-floor addition to accommodate for more STEAM learning and a new secure entrance are currently being built. Construction will be completed for the 2020-2021 school year.
“Change is certainly in the air for the BC community,” Baker said. “Our classroom experience is being retooled from the inside out. I’m so thankful for all of the support from staff, families and the community to make these changes successful.”